Lost in the midst of a media-laced "quarterback controversy" is the fact that some injured Cowboys are on their way back to the offense. We can discuss the Darren McFadden's and James Hanna's of the world later. The big return comes in the form of the Cowboys most demonstrative receiver who's been cleared to go. Dez Bryant doesn't want to hear any more questions about his health.
As Dez Bryant walks off field he finds me and tells me "Don't have to ask me anymore, I'm good...playing against Philly"— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) October 16, 2016
Dez Bryant is ready to be part of the huge divisional showdown on the eve of Halloween and ready to be a part of a winning team at 5-1. As the Cowboys prepare for their bye week, they'll be welcoming a dominant face back into the lineup.
The last time this offense was truly rolling was in 2014 and there are some similarities in that team and this team. Both teams dominated on third-down percentage, both teams had the league's top rusher and both teams had defenses that could make big plays at crucial times in the game. These two almost look like mirror-images of each other. The one thing that is truly missing is a dominating receiving presence, although, you could make an argument for Cole Beasley right now. Dez Bryant broke the franchise record for receiving touchdowns in 2014 with 16.
Since 2010, Dez Bryant is second on the active receivier touchdowns list with 60, the only player with more touchdowns is Rob Gronkowski. It's not like the 2014 team dominated in passing statistics (16th) and they're currently 20th as we speak. Still, they dominated in scoring and that's what they are doing right now and getting better with each week. That should only increase with the addition of Dez Bryant. It really doesn't matter the quarterback in this argument, Dez will Dez and when he does, it can dominate games.
The Cowboys don't have to be the most outstanding passing attack because that's not their M.O.; they win by pushing guys off the ball and slowing the game way down with their running attack. They want to physically beat up the opposing teams and that's where a guy like Bryant can become a nightmare. In 2014, as Romo was putting the ball in the gut of DeMarco Murray and the offensive line was doing what they do, people would have to pick their poison. When they would load the box against the run, that's when Bryant would strike.
As much that has been made about Dak's unwillingness to throw the ball deep, there isn't much reason for him to do so and not much truth behind that either. Dak Prescott is currently second in the league in yards-per-attempt with 8.2, it's not like he can't get the ball in the air when he wants to. He's not at Tony Romo-level of throwing the ball deep with 47 yards being his longest throw but Dak has put some great touch on his passes as was seen against Green Bay to Brice Butler.
The deep ball is a wrinkle that will come with time but it's just as much about the timing of that throw than anything else. Dez Bryant's impact isn't diminished by not hauling in 68-yard bombs once a game. He can do extreme damage in every facet of the passing game. He's a mismatch for anyone and can be used in the slot, on slants, on screens; you get the point.
It's why when you hear people like Donovan McNabb and some Twitter ranters discuss the possibility of trading his talent, it's met with laughs and serious pondering of those people's credentials. Dez Bryant is not a run-of-the-mill talent that's easily replaceable. He's one of the most physical receivers in the NFL and it makes covering him a tall task for anyone who dares to take it.
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were without Dez Bryant and Tony Romo and were cooked from the beginning. This year, the receivers like Butler, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley have come to life in their absences. Still, don't get it twisted, Dak deserves some iof that credit because he's getting them the ball. The receivers didn't just come to life, they have a better signal-caller. With Dez back in the fold, this offense can reach even new levels of destruction on defenses across the league.
Josh Norman made headlines last season when he suggested that the Cowboys' get back the $70 million that they paid Bryant. As entertaining as that was, Norman knew he was picking on a guy with a foot injury that was never right in 2015. It seems somehow, some way, his tune changed and here's what he said about Dez recently before their matchup in week two:
"Man, he’s a hard guy to control," Norman said. "Once he gets that motor going, it’s all she wrote. He’s a physical specimen. He gets the ball at the highest point. He’s a threat, man. He’s a threat. It will be exciting to see that again. Looking forward to it as always."
"You’ve got to respect the good ones, the great ones," Norman said. "You go out there and disrespect somebody once and they come back and they hear that and you go on the field and you see them torch you for 100-some yards. It will be a little issue there. You swallow a big piece of humble pie beyond that. I respect each and every one of them for what they do in their craft. Their freak athletes at the top of their games, elite as they come. I want to compare myself up against that. If I can come within a measure of that, I’ll be OK."
Those statements are what we're talking about here when we get excited about Bryant's return. He's the type of guy that defenses don't want to get revved up. Once he starts, the pounding usually doesn't stop. I'll remind you guys that the Cowboys got their behinds spanked against the Eagles on Thanksgiving in 2014. After the game, all Dez Bryant would say is that he's going to tag them back. Before the game, Malcolm Jenkins and Bradley Fletcher were jawing back and forth with Dez. When the game started, Bryant absolutely torched the Eagles' secondary for six receptions, 114 yards, and three touchdowns.
That's the Dez Bryant that this team needs down the stretch. The guy that once a defense is bruised by the running game, he can put it away with devastating performances. It doesn't take much to get Bryant going and once he does; watch out NFL.